Zumba: Dancing with the stars ... in the gym
Zumba is a Latin-dance-inspired aerobic exercise class that is all about having fun, says originator Beto Perez – more fun because you're not counting steps or having to execute precise moves.
With sexy motivational music playing, you mimic the instructor as she does the rumba, flamenco, mambo and other dance steps. The class is structured so there are fast and slow rhythms – an upbeat meringue might be followed by a slower, African-influenced cumbia and then a hip-gyrating salsa. Perez started Zumba in his native Columbia in the early 1990s when he forgot his regular fitness class music and improvised with his own Latin music tapes.
• Easy to follow
• A feel-good workout for anyone who likes to dance
• Burns an impressive 500 to 1,000 calories an hour
• Training this way (fast/slow intervals) builds endurance. During the slower dance sequences your body can recover – so you can push yourself again when a faster song comes on
• Tones and sculpts the body
• Low impact
• You may become more relaxed when dancing at parties
What you need:
• Loose, comfortable clothing, as well as dance-fitness shoes, which provide lateral and vertical support, but not too much traction – you'll need to slide for some of the dance moves.
Where/how to get started: There are more than 500 Zumba instructors in Canada, and classes are held at community centres, dance studios and fitness clubs. Find Zumba instructors and classes at www.zumba.com. Average class fees start at about $9.
Page 1 of 4Kayaking: Bliss and core strength in a boat
Nestled comfortably into the cockpit of a sleek sea kayak, a paddler dips a double-bladed paddle rhythmically into the water and glides forward across a bay or along an ocean coast. A spray skirt, fitted around the rim of the cockpit, keeps water out and warmth in. There's storage room for food, water and overnight supplies, so an outing can last a few hours or a few days.
• Burns calories
• Helps tone upper body
• With proper technique, kayaking helps develop core strength, says Doug Alderson, author of Savvy Paddler and chairman of the Sea Kayak Program Committee for Paddle Canada. Paddling power comes from your torso, while your arms position the paddles. "You'll get fit doing it," says Alderson.
• Anyone can learn to kayak, and he or she will enjoy noticeable improvements.
• Make new friends and enjoy being part of a community of kayakers. •Convenience – you can tie a kayak to the top of your car and launch from just about anywhere.
• Beauty, peace and discovery. "When I slip that spray skirt over my head," says Sue Scott, a 46-year-old speech language pathologist in Victoria, "it's like going through a portal…I leave behind the worries of normal life and enter a magical world where it's just me and nature."
What you need:
• Lessons – safety knowledge and skills are essential, says Alderson.
• A kayak and a personal flotation device.
• A level of comfort in the water. Initial training includes getting out of a capsized boat.
• Comfortable, climate-appropriate clothing such as a dry suit for cool or cold water.
• Alderson also a recommends waterproof communication device, such as a mobile phone.
Where/how to get started: Courses are offered by paddle sports companies such as Coast Mountain Expeditions on Vancouver Island. It charges $145 for a one-day Paddle Canada learn-to-kayak course (equipment provided). Paddle sports companies also rent equipment (Coast Mountain rents kayaks equipped with paddles, spray skirt, life jacket and other safety equipment for $50 per day). If you find you love the sport, investing in a kayak and safety gear can set you back several thousand dollars, but the equipment will last for years.
Cross-training options: Improve core strength by taking yoga or Pilates.
Page 2 of 4
Dumbells: A weighted workout
Dumbbells (short bars with weights at each end) are key pieces of equipment in resistance-training exercises. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, you can still move a muscle through its full range of motion. Muscles respond to this kind of stress by growing stronger, says Harley Pasternak, a long-time diet and fitness expert with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles.
Compared to using larger weight machines, dumbbells provide a more efficient way to work out. Many dumbbell exercises are done while standing, which means most of the body is engaged in the exercise.
• Quick noticeable results and easy to progress
• Exercises mimic everyday movements so you'll become stronger and more coordinated and balanced.
• Increases lean muscle mass and boosts metabolism, which improves your ability to lose weight.
• Decreases risk of osteoporosis. Joanne Schnurr, 48, a wife and mom, and a senior reporter for CTV News in Ottawa, says: "My mother and aunt suffer from osteoporosis. I'm lactose intolerant so I don't drink milk, and calcium pills bother me. That leaves me regular resistance training with weights to boost my bone density."
What you need:
• Dumbbell set
• Warm muscles: always warm up before you start.
• Correct form and technique. Pasternak, whose 5-Factor Fitness program includes resistance training with dumbbells, recommends that you master simple movements before more complicated variations. "Watch yourself in a mirror or work with a personal trainer."
• Use the appropriate resistance. "You should just barely be able to complete the prescribed number of repetitions with proper technique. To avoid injury, always err on the side of too light," says Pasternak.
Where/how to get started: For home workouts, dumbbells range in price from about $20 for a four-weight set (two 3-pound and two 5-pound weights) from Canadian Tire to about $130 for a 36-pound set of York dumbbells (two each of 10-pound, five-pound and three-pound weights) from Sportmart. Sign up for a dumbbell class at your gym, purchase a program on DVD (or in a book) for home workouts or hire a fitness trainer.
Page 3 of 4Spinning (Indoor cycling class): Ride to cardio fitness
Riding on specially designed stationary bikes, an instructor leads you through different drills and across simulated terrain and situations similar to riding outside. Energizing music, invigorating drills and helpful visualizations ("Let's climb a mountain") heighten the experience. You modulate the riding difficulty by the amount of resistance you put on the wheel, your rhythm (or speed), and whether you sit or stand.
• Anyone of any fitness level can do it.
• An efficient way to burn calories (you can spin away between 400 and 800 calories per hour).
• Low impact, so it's not hard on joints.
• Strengthens heart and leg muscles; core muscles are also at work.
• You'll become a stronger outdoor cyclist (and cross-country skier), too.
• Offers variety. Try a boot-camp class, featuring high-intensity cycling drills, or a mind/body class, where visualization is emphasized.
• Fosters a sense of community – class regulars become supportive buddies. "And the effort in the class is contagious," says Lisa Lindsay, 35, a wife and mom of three kids in Wellington, Ont. "You can close your eyes and make it a personal experience, or you can keep them wide open and enjoy the journey with everyone around you."
What you need:
• Padded cycling shorts or get a gel seatcover to use in class.
• A stationary bike that can be set up to fit your body (for example, set the handlebars and seat to your specific needs). Ask the instructor for guidance.
• Proper form. To sit correctly, says Kim Lavender, director of group exercise and program development at GoodLife Fitness clubs, "roll back on your sits bones (the bones you feel under you when you sit up straight on a firm surface) and engage your abdominals."
• Use the toe clips to pedal efficiently: push at the front end, and pull at the back end of the pedal stroke.
• Lots of water.
Where/how to get started: Take a class at a cycling studio (average $15 to $20 per class) or fitness club. Ride two to three times a week for training benefits.
Cross-training options: Consider activities such as running, tennis and yoga.
• Fitness for life
• 6 frugalista fitness tips
• Fitness on-the-go
Page 4 of 4